COMMENT

Should our mayor be a popularity contest?

Would you want to choose our mayor? To have a separate vote from that of just electing councillors?

The idea of a popularly elected mayor is not new for the Bega Valley - it seems to come up every council term in fact. Each time the issue is dropped as soon as proposed costs are revealed.

Apparently it would cost in the order of $30,000 to hold a referendum in conjunction with next year's council election to determine the will of the community, and upwards of $100,000 extra every election cycle to hold a separate mayoral vote in conjunction with a council election given the additional campaign resources required.

For BDN readers and followers on Facebook, an informal poll that opened ahead of Wednesday's council discussion indicates a clear preference for us selecting our own mayor.

At the time of writing, the vote stands at 193 for a popularly elected mayor (78% of respondents); to 55 votes for councillors to continue deciding among themselves.

As it happens, Cr Tony Allen's notice of motion was lost with councillors voting in the majority to maintain the current practice of holding their own internal ballot on who sits in the top chairs.

Mayor Kristy McBain, who voted against the motion, said it would be "an ongoing cost to our community".

Cr Allen - whose popularity among voters has been clear in the 2012 and 2016 council elections - said it was unknown whether the majority of the shire wished to choose their own mayor or not, and his motion could be a way of working that out once and for all.

"I think it's a sad day for people in this shire if we don't give them the very simple opportunity to say yes or no," he said.

Around one-quarter of NSW councils have a popularly elected mayor, including our nearest neighbour Eurobodalla Shire (so we assume the predicted costings come with some authority).

However, does the idea break with our conventions at other levels of government?

While we know who leads the party (most of the time, it tends to change a lot), we don't vote for the Prime Minister or Premier directly, we vote for a local representative of our preferred party.

We may not know all the other faces filling in the seats around the table, but we trust the person we put at number one on our ballot paper to do the right thing for us. Is that not the same for local government?

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